SEATTLE – Trailing by 14 points at halftime, the Washington Huskies made one adjustment in the second half, and it made all the difference in their 74-72 comeback victory over Cal-State Fullerton on Sunday night.
Desmond Simmons was inserted into the starting lineup, and he brought the energy and also brought the ball down from the boards. He finished with a career-high 18 rebounds – three off the school record – as the Huskies (4-3) chased down and passed the Titans (3-4) in the second half.
“It wasn’t a miracle or just by chance to happen to get back in this game, we fought back,” said Simmons, who also had 14 points. “We were more physical on defense. We rebounded. We eliminated some of their second-chance points. We pretty much geared down and ground it out.”
The Huskies didn’t take a lead until under three minutes were left and won the game with 3.6 seconds left on a pair a free throws by C.J. Wilcox.
Wilcox, who had a team-high 21 points, was fouled by D. J. Seeley with 3.6 seconds remaining. It came just after Alex Harris made a 3-pointer from the right baseline with seven seconds left to tie the game at 72.
“We talked about playing smart in the locker room. We had two mental errors there and they ended up costing us,” said Fullerton coach Andy Newman on his team’s fouls in the final seconds. “That’s a really good Washington team. They’re going to be really good in the Pac-12, and I’m really proud of how our guys played.”
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said the team was lethargic in the first half and “everyone was looking around for someone to step up. He (Simmons) was the one who stepped up, in terms of aggressiveness. All of a sudden when you’re playing harder, the ball goes in the basket more often.”
Then it was Husky guard Andrew Andrews who stepped up in the final five minutes because regular point guard Abdul Gaddy left the game with cramps. Andrews made three free throws inside of 22 seconds to keep the Huskies ahead. He finished with 13 points.
“He’s (Andrews) fearless and he got inside their defense,” Romar said.
Seeley scored 24 points for the Titans, but just seven in the second half.
The Titans entered the game ranked No. 2 nationally in scoring (91.2 ppg), assists (19.8), field goal percentage (53.8) and 3-point field goal percentage (47.3).